How can a parent find out what’s bothering their child?

SDK asks: Hello, I have 11-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. Nowadays I feel my son’s behaviour is very abnormal. He has also become a little bit weak in his studies. He has a habit of reading the newspaper, but he always reads the accident news only! He behaves very rudely to his grandmother also and also become much harsher in his conversation. Some times he speaks of leaving the house and going away. Please, what would you suggest?

Hi SDK –


This is one of those cases where I feel like I’m getting about a hundredth of the information I’d need, to know what to suggest.  You know, those nights when there’s a sound of a rustle in a tree outside, and by the time you’ve run out through the dog-door, you can’t see or hear anything, but there’s a hint of a scent that someone was there, but you don’t know where to search?  (Well, maybe you haven’t had that exact experience.  But hopefully you get what I’m saying!)


Clearly there’s something going on with your son.  I wouldn’t worry about the newspaper bit though – it’s actually great that a kid his age is reading the paper at all, and of course stories about accidents are going to be a lot more interesting to a 9-year-old than debates about the Greek economy or settlements in Gaza.  But the other stuff – his worsening in his academics, his sudden rudeness, and his thoughts about running away from home – those concern me.  It definitely sounds like something is bothering him.


So, just as when I get outdoors into that night, what I really want is more information.  Can you ask him (in a very kind way, with no shaming or accusation) what might have been bothering him lately?  Has anyone been mean to him?  Are there any secrets he’s having to hold (you can promise to keep them for him – and if it’s something really awful, you can then apologize and explain to him why you have to break your promise for his safety)?  Don’t be too forceful; he may not even know what’s bothering him.  But I’d certainly start by asking him.


And if you’re not able to get any information out of him, I’d suggest you ask others around him.  Do his teachers know of anything wrong?  Does his sister?  If he has close friends, you might want to ask their parents if they have any ideas.


Most often, kids act out like this when something is going on in their life that they don’t know how to deal with.  So if you can find out what it is, this is a great chance for you to be Super-Parent and teach him ways to contend with the problem.  (And if you aren’t sure of how to deal with it, just write back to Super-Pooch, and I’ll do my best to help you out!)


But if you really can’t find out what’s wrong at all, then I strongly recommend that you seek out some professional help for him, before his behaviors get worse.  A good child therapist is the best thing for him, I think, but if you don’t have access to one, you might find someone good at his school or a place of worship.


What’s really great, SDK, is that you’re asking about it now, and not later when things get worse.   A parent who pays attention is worth their weight in gold.


Or better yet, their weight in pizza!



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